The Palace of Curiosities – Rosie Garland

Rating: 8/10

Review


This was a welcome breath of relief from the previous book I read. This relatively short novel felt easy and quick which was exactly what I was hoping it would be. 

Eve is born with the heart and the looks of a lion. She is kept away from the public by her mother who fears the suspicion and judgement of her neighbours. Abel wakes up on the riverbank, miraculously alive but with no memory or knowledge of who he is. As outcasts of society, they both find their way to the stage to be ogled and peered at. But who is Abel really? Eve may be the only person who can find out.

I absolutely loved the character of Abel as he really played on my love of the mysterious. My favourite type of character is the kind but powerful man, such as Gandalf, Q and Dumbledore. Those who are different but instead of using their power for destruction, use their skills for good. Abel, with his ability to heal and survive great suffering and violence, becomes endearing when instead of wielding this power to dominate those who don’t heal, he wishes to only live in peace and find out answers for where this power comes from. I also enjoyed his naivety  as many books these days are obsessed with presenting strong and mysterious men as strangely all-knowing. It is as if every novel is obsessed with making the Gary Sue a thing and it is such an obvious character profile and yet so many people become blinded to it (cough, The Name of The Wind cough).

One thing that I really love about this novel was the side story of Alfred and the feelings he develops for Abel. I would love to read more fiction with gay characters but I’m not a fan of hyper sexuality or erotica. This turns me off many of the books that are currently out as I’d much prefer just a simple romance that instead of being hot is sweet. Even though it was only a small part of the book, it was a welcome glimpse into a different kind of romance.

I did also enjoy Eve. In particular, I liked that her differences weren’t just on the exterior. I made sure to read her parts carefully so that I could potentially capture any self reflections. But on the whole, she seemed to think of herself as a different being than those around her. As much as it would be possible, she seemed to think like a lion. This made me like her immediately because she was interesting and completely different, inside and out. I think by the end, due to her involvement with Abel, she loses this flair and becomes very ‘white bread.’ That was a shame because my interest in her thoughts and opinions also dwindled as her personality became flat. 

I think my major criticism of the book would be around the introduction of Eve’s hidden power. I found this to be a somewhat cheap move as it was a convenient way to bond Eve and Abel together. Since no mention of this was made in the first half of the novel, the new power seemed strange, sudden and unnecessary. In the end this gave the novel an ending that was less climatic than it should be, as it felt contrived and shoe horned. 

But I thankfully did put down this book with good feelings about it. It was such a better reading experience than the last book and I genuinely wanted to pick it up each time I had a moment. 

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